Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Mason fire dept. to restructure

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — City Council's fire ad hoc committee is studying three proposals that would change the structure of the fire department in an attempt to bring stability.

        The proposals, created by city staffers, call for combining fire and police to create a safety department, becoming a mostly full-time department, or hiring full-time supervisors. The changes could cost between $1.7 million and $5.5 million for personnel, according to preliminary estimates. The current fire payroll amounts to $1.6 million.

        Changing the structure of the mostly part-time department is considered key to boosting morale and bringing stability to this department, which has seen three chiefs in five months. H. Michael Drumm, the most recent fire chief, resigned last month after City Manager Scot Lahrmer told him he was not a “good fit” for the department.

        Assistant City Manager Eric Hansen stressed the proposals are “very preliminary.”

        “None of this is a done deal,” he said. “All of it bears further investigation.”

        Deputy Fire Chief Ray Mueller thinks the department should have gone full-time when it started in October 1998, about a year after Deerfield Township withdrew from the Mason-Deerfield Joint Fire District.

        “It's going to be the best way to go, not only for the coverage for the citizens of the city of Mason, but for this fire department,” Deputy Chief Mueller said. “Based upon the growth and the educational needs required to perform the skills, full-time is absolutely the way to go.

        “The information that the city was given in 1998 on how to adequately run a fire department did not pan out in the best interest of the city or the fire department,” he said. “And now, in 2001, they're looking at the alternatives that they should have looked at in 1998.”

        The three proposals:

        • Full-time supervision would basically maintain the current structure, but would add six full-time lieutenants and additional fire coverage through paid/on-call firefighters.

        • Full-time staffing would add six lieutenants and 18 full-time firefighters to the existing nine employees for a total of 33 full-time personnel.

        Both of these proposals would eliminate one deputy chief position.

        • Combining the administrations and operations of the fire and police departments and cross-training members would be the most costly plan, but city officials said they do not know how many additional personnel would be hired.


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